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I'm currently a software developer (not managing people, aside from occasional juniors on my projects). When I last switched jobs (for a higher-level dev job) I got a lot of similar comments from my former coworkers and managers, saying:

  • "Btw, you should know you'd make a great manager if you decide to do that one day"
  • "Let me know when you become CTO or start your own company"
  • "Keep me in mind when you become CDO at some major corporation"

Although I certainly felt flattered, I have no ambitions of going into management currently & I frankly wonder why people do it.

This other answer made a comment like:

As a project lead or CIO, your day will be meetings. Meetings , meetings, meetings. The time in between will be spent reading the meeting minutes and preparing for the next. The most technical you will get is opening Outlook to check your next meeting and reading email.

And when I've asked this questions to senior colleagues or managers, the answer always seems to boil down to career & money. In short, it seems that most upper managers or C-Suite tech execs have to deal with lots of headaches (from having to deal with the big issues), have lots of meetings, less work-life balance, and nothing fun (such as coding) - all in exchange for lots of money & the ability to drive the direction of a business.

I'm NOT asking if I should become a manager or for career advice. This is more of a general question:

Why do upper managers or executives find it worthwhile (especially if they used to be developers)? Is it purely because of money, or are there other reasons that are less obvious?

Note that I'm not talking about small team leads or techs who are involved with coding but also manage people. I'm asking about the true upper managers or executives who are 2 or 3+ levels removed from the actual coding.

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    I fear that what you ask is also off topic: What motivates people to become C-level managers is opinion based and the motivations depend on each individual. My reasons may be different from other's. Please edit your post to try make it on-topic and to avoid this from being closed. – DarkCygnus Sep 14 '20 at 22:54
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    @DarkCygnus I have to disagree, one answer would be opinion based but we can make a compilation of the main reasons that lead people to switch from tech to management – Maxime Sep 14 '20 at 23:16
  • @Maxime if what you say is true, then such answer will never be completed, as reasons could be added indefinitely. Thus, a canonical answer for this question can't be obtained. We could, however, make the answer/question a Wiki, so the compilation can be enhanced as new opinions come along. I respect your comment, although I don't agree with it: what you suggest is to make a compilation/wiki of opinions, which is also off-topic (there are infinite reasons)... This is my stance on this question. I won't close it now but I am sure the Community will soon unless it's edited and made on-topic. – DarkCygnus Sep 14 '20 at 23:37
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    Imagine a family doctor - you've probably been to one yourself. Would you describe their day as meetings, meetings, meetings? I mean they go in a room with you, there's talking, there's note taking, you leave, repeat. If you can understand why someone would be a doctor you can understand why they would be a manager. They solve problems all day long. – Kate Gregory Sep 15 '20 at 0:23
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From my own personal perspective, it came down to achieving my goals. As a software engineer my ultimate goal was to produce the best software I could to support the business. When the business bored me or I felt I couldn't do that, I moved on. Then I began working for an ethics company, and it was intensely rewarding.

I ran into the condition where I didn't have the support I needed as an engineer, and the CTO at the time challenged me to make a difference a different way. So he made me a manager. At first it was really difficult to switch how I did my job and find the value that I provided since my value was no longer code.

Eventually I found that helping other developers break through their barriers and providing support so they always have what they need to do what they do is the contribution i can make that goes the farthest to creating great software. As an engineer I can only produce so much. By empowering 5, 10, 50 engineers i can influence so much more than i could produce on my own.

It's not for everyone. It takes work and dedication just like anything else. Many engineers find the production of software to be easy. It comes natural to them. They wouldn't make good leaders even though some try because of money. If you work at it and treat it like any other craft, your experience in your career field will give you an advantage by shortening your path to understanding the business problems you'll face.

I'm not a C-level (yet) I'm just below VP, and I've found the leadership side to be significantly more rewarding from a professional standpoint than I ever would have imagined.

Side note: The comment from the answer you quote is absolutely correct. My day is meeting after meeting after meeting. I'm often booked 2 to 3 weeks in advance. Sometimes the meetings seem pointless. Others they're just for face time with people who need to see me "doing the thing". A vast majority is listening to people complain about their problems or listing their tasks. It's all about doing what's best for the team and doing a lot of the banal things so they don't have to.

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At some point you might be frustrated that your manager does not understand what you are doing, that the business does not utilize the full potential of your skills and the technologies you are working on and you start having ideas to improve the business but unfortunately you would need around fifty you to implement these ideas.

So you need to step up and start working on the bigger picture.

Also notice that the IT companies (ie the GAFA) are aware that lots of very skilled people do not want to go into the management trail and allow technical trails to pay a lot of money too and to stay your whole career on the technical expert trail.

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I think as you progress in your workplace as a more experienced technical person, it becomes rewarding to use some of that experience to support the business. Some people find this quite fulfilling and enjoy this increased influence they have in the workplace.

Apart from that, businesses value it when managers are from a technical background in the same industry. They are able to possibly empathise better with the team as well as have a good grasp of the businesses operations. Therefore, such managers are highly sort after. So apart from the monetary benefits, I think people see it as job enlargement and a way to gain more recognition in the workplace. See some examples of CEOs who hail from an engineering background here and here

I also agree with @Maxime where technical people could get frustrated by managers who don't understand well enough to lead them effectively. And they want to do a better job in managing the organisation which prompts them to try to move on to managerial roles.

Another point is, many organisations may simply lack the scope for career progression in a strictly technical role. So to avoid stagnation, people opt to move upwards into a managerial role. Usually, managerial skills are lined to people skills and therefore are easier to acquire organically within the organisation as opposed to acquiring technical skills for managers.

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